Tribes in Uganda

Tribes in Uganda: Uganda was initially colonized formed by the British between the years 1890 and 1926. The name “Uganda” was derived from the ancient Buganda Kingdom, however; Uganda has over 56 tribes including both the indigenous people of Uganda and the one who migrated into Uganda.  Uganda lies between the arms of the Eastern and western Great rift valleys of East Africa and is bordered by Kenya in the East, Rwanda and Tanzania in the south, South Sudan in the North, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west. The easiest inhabitants of Uganda were the Stone Age people who were gradually replaced in the first millennium A.D by the migrants who were agriculturalists and pastoralists. Between 500 A.D and 1,500 A.D people migrated to Uganda from different parts of Africa and by the time of the British Colonial rule, there were above 50 ethnic and cultural groups in Uganda. These ethnic groups were conveniently divided into 4 categories namely the Bantu, the Nalotics, Hamites and Nilo-Hamites. 

Tribes in Uganda

The Batwa were the earlies group to come to Uganda and they contribute to about 50% of Uganda’s population. The Bantu tribes in Uganda include the Baganda, Basoga, Bagwere, Batooro, Bakiga, Banyankole, Bafumbira, Bagisu, Banyoro, Basamia, Banyole, and Bakonjo. The Bantu are found in the central and western part of Uganda in the districts, mainly in the cities of Kampala, Masaka, Mbarara, Mbale, Fort portal, Kabale, Kisoro, Iganga, Jinja, Busia to mention a few. The tribes are mainly cattle keepers and farmers. 

The second category is the Nilo-Hamities who are found in the North-eastern part of Uganda. The tribes under this ethnic group include; the Karamojongs, Itesots, Karam, Sebei, Pokot, Labwor, Tepeth, Kakwa, to mention a few. This group is said to originate from Ethiopian highlands and they are said to have been one people. The Langi are unique in that they lost their culture to Luo who belong to the Nilotics ethnic group. 

The third groups is the Nilotics, they migrated to the current Northern Uganda. They are also known as the Luo ethnic group and this group is comprised of tribes like the Alur, Acholi, Japadhola, and the Langi. The Acholi in Northern Uganda and Japadhola in Eastern Uganda, the Alur settled in the West Nile, they also include; the Madi, the Lugbara, Okebu, and the Metu. These tribes originate from Sudan but their cultural and language indicates that they have became completely detached from their places of origin. 

Therefore, Uganda is a home to many tribes that speak different languages. Uganda has 56 tribes and about nine indigenous communities that formally came to be recognized in the 1995 constitution amendment of 2005. English is the official language of Uganda. Luganda and Swahili are also widely spoken in most parts of the country. With the increasing foreign population especially Asians, Asian languages are also spoken, French, Arabic and Germany mainly in institutions where they are taught and at embassies and in high levels of education, foreign languages are spoken. 

Below is the list of the 56 local tribes in Uganda 

  1. Acholi
  2. Langi
  3. Itesots
  4. Basoga
  5. Baganda
  6. Bakwere
  7. Hahima
  8. Banyakole
  9. Bakiga
  10. Bagisu
  11. Basamia
  12. Sabiny
  13. Bosoga 
  14. Batooro 
  15. Banyoro 
  16. Pokoth
  17. Jie
  18. Bakonzo
  19. Bafumbira
  20. Babwisi
  21. IK
  22. Batwa
  23. Batuku
  24. Kakwa
  25. Karamojong 
  26. Dodoth
  27. Jonam
  28. Bagungu
  29. Bahehe
  30. Banyole
  31. Bakenyi
  32. Nubi
  33. Napore
  34. Bakwe
  35. Baamba
  36. Japadhola
  37. Ethur
  38. Kuku
  39. Baruli
  40. Batagwenda
  41. Banyabindi
  42. Madi
  43. Lugbara
  44. Chope 
  45. Batuku 
  46. Kebu 
  47. Kumam
  48. Lendu
  49. Vonoma
  50. Nyangia
  51. Bakukusu
  52. Bahehe
  53. Bahororo
  54. Kebu 
  55. Bagwe 
  56. Mening  

The above mentioned tribes of Uganda all make Uganda a unique country to visit. Each tribe in Uganda has its own unique features that make it outstand from the other cultures thus each tribe has its our economic activity, cultural tradition and norms such as the way of dressing, traditional marriages, food, religious affiliations and cultural practises. Below are some of the cultural practices of the different tribes in Uganda

Way of Dressing – Most tribes traditionally, the wear “Gomesi” as clothing for women and today this traditional wear is worn for events and ceremoniesby the women while the men wore “Kanzu”  however, due to modernization the traditional wear is now only worn for functions. These attires are mainly dressed by the tribes that settled in the central and Eastern region of Uganda. The Karamoja region has its own way of dressing where they dress in “Suuka”. Clothing for the western part of Uganda by the Banyarokole, Batooro and Banyoro is “Mushanana” for the women and “Bussuti”. These attires are mainly dressed during marriage functions and any kind of ceremony and celebrations.  

Traditional Marriage – This is one of the most interesting things about the tribes of Uganda. Marriages are treasured among the tribes in Uganda where the men acquire their women from their parents’ homes after paying bride price which is a way of respect and appreciation to the lady’s family. Traditionally in preparation of marriage, the girl was supposed to stay a virgin until the man comes to pay bride price and for every man to marry, it was a must to pay bride price. The western and far East-northern Uganda tribes including the Banyankole, Itesots, Acholi, Batooro, Karamojongs to mention a few, cattle was the accepted item for bride price. Unlike in the current era, polygamous marriages defined Uganda marriages and polygamous men were respected in the communities.  Traditionally, paying bride price is a way of indicating that the man is the head and rules in the house.

Foods and Beverages – The kinds of foods eaten in Uganda originate from a certain tribe in Uganda and considered staple foods. Each tribe is identified by its main dish for example the Baganda – its Luwombo, Banyankole – Millet, Basoga – Cassava, Sabin – Matooke and Bagisu – Malewa, Itesots, Acholi, Langi, Karamojongs – Millet. The Basoga – Sweet potatoes, the Batooro – Millet, Bakiga – Irish potatoes. Other agricultural foods produced and consumed in Uganda include Cassava, sweet potatoes by the Basoga people. Other foods eaten include; Irish potatoes by the Bakiga, Maize, Rice, Yams, vegetables and lots of fruits among others. The commonly known alcohol drinks include the Ajono for the Itesots, Munanasi for the Buganda, Ntoto for the western tribes. These local drinks were drunk during the leisure time after work as a way of socialising in the community. 

Family and Gender Status – Traditionally, Family decisions were made by the head of the family who is the husband/father without any influence from the wife or children. In all tribes in Uganda, men in the family are providers for the family while women take care of the family so the women highly depended on men in a family with provision of food, school fees for children and construction of the house among other responsibilities except for the Acholi tribe where the women are the caretakers of a home. Traditionally, the women were inferior to men and some things that were forbidden for the women do for example; women were not allowed to attend meetings, women were not allowed to eat some dishes such as chicken, basically women were for the kitchen only. 

Etiquette – Shaking hands is the traditional form of greeting. When a meal is ready, all the members of the household wash their hands and sit on floor mats. Visitors and neighbours who arrive unexpectedly are allowed to join the family at a meal. Normally a short prayer is said before the family starts eating. During the meal, children talk only when asked a question. It is considered impolite to leave the room while others are eating. Leaning on the left hand or stretching one’s legs at a meal is a sign of disrespect. When the meal is finished, everyone in turn gives a compliment to the mother and the cook. Children are supposed to give respect to their parents at all situation and greeting elders is my kneeling on your knees by the girl child. 

Cultural and tradition practices – Each tribe in Uganda has a cultural practice that makes it outstanding from other tribes making Uganda a combined nation for interesting cultures for example the Bagisu people have practice Circumcision for young boys as an initiation to adulthood. It is believed that if a Masaba boy is not circumcised traditionally, he is not considered a man. The process involves celebrations and the boy is expected to be brave enough to go through the process that is to say to be a man of courage. The Sabin people from Kapchorwa on the other hand traditionally do circumcision on the girls however; this has highly been discouraged by the Uganda government because it is a very dangerous practice for it has led to loss of lives among the girls.

book a safari